Arsenal were one of the Premier League’s bigger clubs during the January window, securing the services of Legia Warsaw youngster Krystial Bielik on the 21st and following it up with an £11million deal for Villarreal centre-back Gabriel Paulista five days later.
But did the Gunners’ spending, just below the £15million mark, truly address all of the issues currently facing the squad?
We at Football Fancast believe there’s still some to work to be done before the north London outfit are challenging for the Premier League title once again, and with that in mind we’ve listed the FOUR issues that went without resolution during the winter transfer window.
So without further ado…
Arsenal’s eternal blind spot in the transfer market, the 2015 January window marked yet another in which Arsene Wenger failed to address the Gunners’ lack of physicality and defensive quality in the middle of the park.
That is, of course, with the exception of £2.5million signing Krystian Bielik and a new contract for academy product Francis Coquelin. But the former is just 17 years of age and some distance from first team football at the Emirates, whilst it remains to be seen if the latter can sustain the impressive level of performance he showed against Manchester City.
Indeed, a monolithic midfielder of the Nemanja Matic or Yaya Toure mould appears to be the eternal ceiling between Arsenal and the Premier League’s current title challengers. Southampton enforcer Morgan Schneiderlin and Sporting Lisbon prodigy William Carvalho – tough tacklers both measuring in at around 6 foot 2 – were linked with Emirates switches last month but Arsenal’s alleged interest never materialised into something genuine.
Still in need of that imposing midfield anchor, in my opinion at least, it’s likely the North London outfit will move for one in the summer. Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez remains another option Wenger should be strongly considering.
Having inspired Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester City with a goal, an assist and ten (yes, ten!) successful dribbles, and claimed in total six goals, eight assists and four Man of the Match awards in his last 14 appearances for the Emirates outfit, Gunners fans have exhausted all superlatives in praise of Santi Cazorla’s form over the last few months.
Indeed, he’s fought his way back from the fringes of the squad to become one of the starting Xi’s most consistent fixtures, but could there be trouble on the horizon for the Spain international?
His contract expires at the end of next season and the 30 year-old is still waiting for new a long-term deal, having extended his current terms at the start of the campaign.
That could have something to do with the make-up of Arsenal’s squad; Cazorla’s best position is undoubtedly at No.10, the central role exploiting his ambi-pedal feet and fantastic creativity, but in the long-term that will almost certainly be acquired by Mesut Ozil.
Having decided not to offer the former Malaga and Villarreal star a new deal last month, despite a superfluous run of form and his current contract entering its final 18 months, Arsene Wenger could decide to part with Cazorla in the summer. Atletico Madrid are known long-term admirers.
Having endured a turbulent campaign both on and off the pitch, one can only ponder Wojciech Szczesny’s long-term future at the Emirates, with David Ospina taking over No.1 duties in recent weeks.
The 26 year-old is a decent goalkeeper by all means and has made a string of impressive saves since his Premier League debut against Stoke City in January. But he lacks the height and aerial dominance of your average Premier League goalie, whilst his questionable handling has thrown up the old Heurelho-Gomes-esque clanger from time to time.
Admittedly, this issue would have been tough for the Gunners to resolve mid-season and competition for Arsenal’s No.1 jersey can never be a bad thing.
Szczesny and Ospina have half a season to prove themselves – if not, we could see Wenger turn to one of the aforementioned names when the transfer window reopens in July.
Arsene Wenger clearly holds huge faith in Olivier Giroud and the France striker has been repaying it an abundance this season, grabbing seven goals and two assists in just nine Premier League starts.
After that however, I worry about Arsenal’s lack of depth up front. Despite his incredible form in more familiar capacities, Alexis Sanchez failed to score a single goal from his three outings as a centre-forward earlier in the campaign, particularly struggling with his back to goal, whilst Danny Welbeck has proved himself a rather inconsistent, albeit useful, addition since joining the Emirates outfit from Manchester United in the summer.
Then we’re left with Theo Walcott, who undoubtedly has a greater impact when cutting in from wide positions and would lack the physicality required to be the Gunners’ lone front-man long term.
Surprisingly, the Gunners passed on Manchester City signing Wilfried Bony who, in my opinion, would have been the perfect candidate to contest Giroud for his spot in the starting Xi.
It might be something Wenger wishes to address this summer and some reports have already linked the north London outfit with PSG’s Edinson Cavani. The Uruguay international boasts potent returns of 40 in 71 for the French champions and 104 in 138 for former club Napoli, but has fallen afoul of Laurent Blanc after skipping the Parisians’ winter training camp, resulting in a three-match internal ban.